Err on the side of over-communicating.
Regular communication with your clients is important year-round, but perhaps even more so during the holidays. The holiday season is a time of year especially centered on families, and the loved ones of those you care for may worry more than usual. They may feel that their loved one’s care is out of their control, and they may worry their loved one is lonely and not enjoying the holidays. Increase your communications and help family members know that you are doing your job as promised and giving their loved one the care they need, physically and emotionally.
According to the University of Washington Medical Center, here are several things you need to keep in mind when communicating with a client’s family:
A Relationship of Trust
Families will be more at ease with you and your home care business if you work to build a relationship with them. One important part of building a relationship is to assign an employee to be the regular point of contact for your company, so the family talks to the same person each time. Clients like having the stability of one caregiver where possible. Having multiple caregivers can often create confusion and is one of the top complaints from home care clients in the thousands of surveys calls we make every month.
Once a point of contact has been assigned, have that employee work to get to know the client’s family. Each time family members are contacted, make sure your employee takes the time to understand concerns, feelings, occupations, family situation, etc. Address family members by name and get to know the family dynamics. Make your contact personal, friendly and genuine. Families need to know that you are there to help them too.
In addition to appointing an employee to keep in regular contact, you may want to develop a “just ask” policy, so family members know they are welcome to contact you at any time to inquire about their loved one’s care. Let family members know that you are happy to discuss their concerns or give them an update whenever they call.
At Home Care Pulse, we offer client and caregiver surveys that specifically track communication. Learn whether there are any gaps in your communication with clients, and find out exactly what you can do to fix it.
Through regular communication, work to keep family members informed about their loved one’s care and condition. Make a plan with family members ahead of time. How often do they want to hear from you regarding their loved one’s care? Try, if at all possible, to accommodate their wishes.
Prepare ahead of time before contacting long-distance family members. Know their loved one’s situation and latest updates. Talk to caregivers to get a good overview of the client’s health and care. Give family members the details and be honest. Don’t try to sugarcoat difficulties, but always be mindful of how stressful it is to be far away and feel helpless. Make sure you have a plan for solving any problems or improving conditions, if necessary. Show family members that you are mindful of the situation, and you are willing to take any actions necessary to ensure the comfort and well-being of your client.
As you inform family members of the care you are providing and the condition of their loved one, be careful to use terminology that everyone can understand. Stressful situations are only made worse by confusing and complicated jargon. Explain things simply, so family members know exactly what you are talking about and know there is no reason to be concerned.
Comfort & Well-Being
Families are most concerned about their loved one’s comfort and well-being. Those who live far away are sometimes the most concerned because they can’t be there in person to reassure and care for their loved one. They are relying on you, and your word, that you’re doing all they’ve hired you to do. Make sure they know that their loved one’s care is your top priority, too.
Every time you speak with a client’s family members, address their loved one’s condition, comfort, and care. Reassure family members that you are going the extra mile to keep their loved one happy and healthy.
Respect & Understanding
Always respect a client’s family members and their wishes. Never judge their circumstances or jump to conclusions about their situation. If they sense that you think they are failing their loved one or not doing the right thing, they will lose trust in you and your services. No matter how you feel about the situation, keep an open, understanding mind as you communicate with them about the services you are providing. There might be something going on behind the scenes that you are unaware of and judging the situation will not add to it.
Be aware and respectful of each family’s culture and religion. Their heritage or beliefs may affect the way they communicate and the way they expect their loved one to be cared for. For example, in some cultures, important decisions are only made by parents or by the oldest child. This knowledge may help you to know which family member to communicate with or why a certain family member is the one making all the decisions.
Showing respect is especially important when it comes to holidays and traditions. Learn about your client’s family traditions surrounding the holidays. How do they celebrate in their culture or religion? Honor their traditions and work to help the entire family continue their traditions. This may mean training caregivers about the family’s heritage or religion and encouraging caregivers to help clients keep in touch with family members as they celebrate the holidays. Your clients and their families will appreciate your efforts.
At the end of the day, simply remember that having family in the care of other is difficult all around. Placing yourself in the family members shoes and using the golden rule: “treat others how you’d wish to be treated,” will make all the difference.
Keeping an open, honest line of communication will benefit everyone. Your clients’ family members will be grateful for your efforts to get to know them and to keep them informed. They will grow to trust and rely on your expertise and care for their loved one.